Berlin Community Radio (BCR) is exactly what this city needs: a platform to broadcast the huge assortment of creative output Berlin has been harvesting for years. The independent radio station has been live since September 2013, and I sat down with founders Anastasia Filipovna and Sarah Miles in their Pflügerstraße studio – nestled in the heart of the quickly expanding Neukölln district – to discuss the launch of their latest programme, ‘Welcome to Berlin.’
Almost immediately, the conversation turned into a brainstorming session, spurred by their joint enthusiasm. The exciting part about BCR is the openness to all kinds of new content that Miles and Filipovna encourage, actively accepting applications in all genres. BCR is a meeting place for different creative scenes in the city and the two are energetic and enthusiastic about future projects: “It’s really interesting to see people come together. That was basically our idea: to give these people who are involved with interesting new or long-standing projects a platform to present what they do and be creative with it. Everyone can tune in, whether they’re living here in the city or they want to tune in from abroad and find out a bit more about Berlin.”
While BCR started out showcasing mostly electronic musicians and DJs, they’ve always been interested in expanding to talk shows with an array of content, from art to fashion to popular science and philosophical debate. Today there are over 50 shows airing on the station, with a slew of hosts from across the city and a rotating schedule of special international guests.
Filipovna, Miles and I sat at a table in the front of their studio, letting the sun and spring air in through the big open doors, while the melodies and riffs of BCR Special guest George Mavrikos (Nous) filtered in from the next room.
You two host some of the shows on BCR yourselves, right?
Anastasia Filipovna: We’ve been doing the ‘Welcome to the Room’ show for 3 years, so that’s our show.
Sarah Miles: We originally started it in the club Farbfernseher and built it up every time. They’re still with us, we still do the show with them twice a month. In that show, we catch international artists who are coming to the city and playing and DJing. And then we both have our own music shows.
So your ‘Welcome to the Room’ show was the conceptual basis for the new Welcome to Berlin show?
AF: It will be based on the same thing: a 2-hour show which is a bit of an informal interview and a chance for artists to showcase their talent.
SM: It will feature artists from Berlin, or who have chosen to make Berlin their home.
AF: And maybe they are a bit more up and coming.
SM: Yea, ‘Welcome to the Room’ was more established musicians. We had Andrew Weatherall and people who had been around for ages.
AF: If the guest is a DJ they can play for half an hour or an hour.
SM: We had the idea to ask them to play a song that reminded them of when they first moved here. Related to that memory. And I think within the ‘Welcome’ concept we’re trying to help them a bit with their international reach or just let people know about them.
AF: You know how easy it is to be known in Berlin. There’s people who get booked in shows all over the city but once they cross the border of Berlin nobody has ever heard of them. It happens that people don’t have the reach. If people know you in London they know you everywhere. We’re trying to break down that barrier.
SM: This is also part of the reason why we chose to have the station solely in English. So that other people could listen. It’s a nice way to showcase music made by the city and about the city and to share it with the rest of the world. Cause everything is so linked nowadays.
It can be a problem in Berlin. The title of your show just reminded me of these t-shirts I’ve seen around town: “Welcome to Berlin, Now Go Home!” There can be a lot of hostility and not always a welcoming vibe toward foreigners.
AF: I think there’s enough space in the city for another 700,000 people to come!
SM: There was the period of a backlash against people moving to Berlin for cheap rent, to become “artists”. But now we can actually show who those people are who did that, and quite successfully.
Let’s talk a bit about how Berlin Community Radio evolved from the beginning.
SM: We started working together with ‘Welcome to the Room’. Prior to that I did Music PR for a few years. And I was DJing.
AF: Yea, we were doing ‘Welcome to the Room’. Watching other radio stations we always thought that was something we really needed here in Berlin.
SM: When we were doing the first ‘Welcome to the Room’ shows we made lists of target guests we’d like to have on and we wondered why these people weren’t being interviewed and going on the radio.
AF: There were so many people, we felt like we had to grab everybody before anybody else did. There’s some people who didn’t want to commit at first but the majority of people we managed to persuade to do shows. And then after a while there was less persuading and more having to say no to some people. Obviously we don’t want to have too much of just music content. We basically already put a stop to electronic music.
SM: Yea we have an application form online and anything too House or Techno we don’t take now.
AF: We don’t want to be just an electronic music station. Now we want Afrobeat. Punk, hardcore punk. Maybe Noise. Something that’s just underrepresented. We have the opportunities for visitors to come on and do a guest show, called BCR Special.
Who are you planning to feature for the new ‘Welcome to Berlin’ show?
SM: We have four artists lined up.
SM: That’s already quite a nice variety.
AF: Black Cracker is a rapper and Palms Trax is a more classic electronic music producer. Then we’ve got Uma and Magic Island, which is more like synthpop. We also confirmed Easter.
SM: We just have 7 shows this round, one a month from April through to October.
What kind of other shows do you have going on on BCR at the moment? Any particular favourites?
AF: Oh yeah. The ASMR show ‘You’re Worth It’ is incredible. It’s every other Monday afternoon. ASMR is this phenomenon that’s going on recently on the Internet.
SM: It’s something we picked up that really translates to radio very well.
AF: The host Claire plays some of the famous ASMR Youtube videos but she also has guests who come on and do things, like with jelly nails and picking up burnt noodles. She is the go-to person in Berlin for ASMR. And that’s probably the first ASMR radio show, I haven’t heard of any others.
SM: When you watch the videos it’s often quite good looking young girls but when it’s just the sound it becomes very interesting, I think. Out of context.
AF: We’re also really excited about the Tissue Magazine show launch. The first episode will just be music and we’re working with them on content for the next one – a little bit more magazine related stuff. Another great new show is ‘Let’s Share the Blame’ on Mondays. That’s Moritz, who’s working at Sandy Brown Gallery, and he does a bit more like K-Pop and Asian noise music. It’s a really good show.
SM: We’re going to have YYAA, they’re going to do a monthly show. They’re a tape label.
AF: And we have Bass Gang who we just signed, starting today. Bass Gang is a group of 17- and 18-year-old boys from Neukölln who are playing Bass music and they’re incredible. They have really good energy. We wanted them for awhile. They’re going to have a monthly show now.
aqnb: Did you approach them to do a show?
SM: They were guests first. In the beginning we talked to them because of Janus – that’s the party in Chester’s. They invited Bass Gang to play and we always wanted to work with youth, with younger Berliners, so we’re very happy. And they really wanted it as well so we’re all very excited about it.
AF: We are also having Bill Kouligas coming up, finally.
We are really open for new concept shows. We accept applications online, there’s a form on our website. There are probably people out there who have some really great ideas ready and think that we wouldn’t want it, but we do.
AF: We want more women! We do have a lot of amazing girls involved but there’s always room for more. But not DJs who just want to play music. The concept stuff… it’s mostly guys who want to do that. We want more art shows. We’re looking for fashion shows, someone who can really present fashion in an audio format, which is a big challenge. But I’m sure it can be done, it just has to be done cleverly. More art shows though, definitely.
SM: If anyone out there would come and do a philosophy show or a debate show…
AF: We have Grayson Revoir, who will read ‘The Tunnel’ by William H. Gass. He will come every Monday and read the book for an hour. But we could definitely use more stuff like that. More debates about topics that are important for us in the city, as well.
SM: I want someone like Alan Watts doing a Thought for the Day.
AF: And we definitely want a Science show, can we have that on record? **